Loyalty that lasts a lifetime: celebrating our own 90th with the Barstows

* 3 min read

Queen Elizabeth has had one heck of a birthday.  She technically turned 90 on April 21st, but that was only the beginning. Now as we approach the last hurrah of the Queen’s 90th celebrations, with the Trooping of the Colour, we’re looking at a 90-year history a little closer to home.

It’s the story of our very own Paul Barstow, whose family has worked for Sun Branding Solutions for the past 90 years. An achievement that has piqued the interest of both The Yorkshire Post and The Bradford Telegraph & Argus of late.

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It’s a history that sees an industrial powerhouse transform into the modern city it is today and Sun Branding Solutions move from etching copper plates to augmented reality packaging in just a few decades. Paul’s career has endured through it all.
Born and bred in Yorkshire, Paul followed in his father’s footsteps to pursue a career in packaging graphics at Gilchrist Brothers that would later become Sun Branding Solutions.

“Back then, it was very common to pursue the same career that your father did. Joining the same company that he did and getting involved in the packaging industry just seemed to be the natural choice for me,” Paul recalls.

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He first joined as an apprentice colour etcher. His job was to print colour designs onto the metal surfaces of copper plates. Of course, work wasn’t the high tech, office-based environment that it is now. Meticulously drawing and crafting illustrations and metal engravings by hand were among Sun Branding Solutions first specialities.

“We used to reproduce fine art pieces for catalogues. We’d have stacks of art stored in a special safe whilst we were working on the prints. You couldn’t use a photograph. You had to have the original if you wanted the colours to be as accurate as possible.”

Since then, Yorkshire has gone through an enormous transformation. The 1980s posed particular challenges for Leeds, as the city was rapidly modernised. Old mills and rundown buildings gave way to trendy shops, contemporary office spaces and a post-industrial landscape.

“There is so much history in Leeds. It’s a city that has been able to preserve that side of itself, while also being able to create a modern lifestyle for the next generation – and will hopefully continue to do so.”

Technology has driven the bulk of this change. Industries like packaging design moved into office spaces and computers started to appear on every desk. Design software became a core part of the packaging design process, with the classic pencil and paper being relegated to initial sketches. The working environment became safer, cleaner and quicker with the ability to adapt with the latest technology.

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Paul remembered the time his father stepped back into the office 20 years after his retirement: “It was quite a shock for him. He said ‘What are you all doing? Why are you all looking at TV screens?’ Technology had transformed the way we work so quickly, for him it was like stepping into a different world.”Reflecting on his 41 years at Sun Branding Solutions, and his father’s 49 years, for Paul it hardly feels like more than a decade. But if there’s one thing about his experience that Paul appreciates the most, it’s the people.

“The people around me are the most important thing. I feel privileged to be able to live in such a kind and supportive community, and to work with such clever, funny and wonderful people.”

Looking back over the years, it’s astonishing how much has changed in such a short space of time. The way we live, the way we work, and the places we call home have radically transformed over the course of a single lifetime. From Paul’s perspective, someone who has the tenacity to stay at the same company regardless of the challenges that come this way, that transformation is even more apparent. And it shows just how much of a fascinating mystery the next 90 years will be.